I've been in school for the past 5 years, and next year will be my final year of college. I've worked hard and haven't done much vacationing or traveling in years, aside from a week vacation to Florida a year back. Since I'll be graduating school, I'll have some time before the task of paying back my loans begins. A friend and I have been doing some talking and we'd really like the travel to Europe for a month or so. The basic idea so far is to go soon after graduating. Spending a week in the United Kingdom, a week in France, and then end it with a week in Italy. The thing is, we really have no idea where idea to begin planning, aside from just saving up money. I was wondering and hoping if anyone had any advice on how to bring this trip to a reality.
For a start, forget about countries and plan around specific locations. Do you have some specific areas/sites/activities in mind? What kind of budget? Interests? Other requirements/needs/specifics???
First off, it's probably going to be more expensive than you think, especially in these western European countries, so I would really concentrate on researching costs and coming up with some sort of basic total budget, even if it's a very early estimation.
On your type of student budget, I'd imagine you'd want to start looking into hostels to get an idea of that or maybe even CouchSurfing, neither are as intimidating as they may seem after you do it once.
Okay, let's take things step by step. You have chosen your countries, you want to visit. Cool! Now, let's move on. Now it is time to choose the exact places (cities, areas) you want to visit. As I have understood (you can correct me if I'm wrong) it is your first trip to Europe. So this is something we need to keep in mind. But basically you just find the places you want to visit based on your interests? Do you want see culture, history etc? Here are some of my suggestions to make your life easier. But really google, do research about those countries or ask here. I have travelled a lot in Europe as I live in Europe, so I would be more than happy to answer your questions!
UK: Of course you can't go there without going to London. Probably if you start with UK, then your plane arrives there, so you really can't go to UK without visiting London. But just keep in mind, that in UK there are a lot more than just London, so a few days in London is enough. After that you have a lot of possibilities - go to South of England or to the North of England. When you are going for a week to UK, maybe it is not the best idea to go to Scotland - it is beautiful, but the distance is long. It is all up to you, this is just my suggestion. So when you are choosing out the places, think what do you really want to see. In South of England there is Stonehenge, that is a wonderful place, in the North of England, you can go to York - a little town, you can see the really english life. Those are just some of my suggestions, there are tons of places to go in UK.
France: Again you can't go there without going to Paris as it is your first visit to France. But I would suggest a few days there and then where? Maybe you want to visit the South of France (Nice, Cannes etc) or maybe you want to stay in North of France ( Bretagne, Normandy) - again wonderful! Or go near Bordeaux, near Atlantic ocean? Beautiful weather, tons of things to do. Just keep in mind that France is big and don't jump around. With a week you can't go to everywhere you want. Just choose Paris and then another place. Also keep in mind that after France you are going to Italy, so you want to make sure, how you get there. If you want to fly, then it is not a big problem from any part of France, but if you want to use train, then you know - some places are better for that.
Italy: Ok, I think you don't have to go to Rome. Rome is a very beautiful city full of ancient culture, but maybe we should keep things more together and maybe you shouldn't jump around that much. I suggest visiting Venice - it is a different city than you have ever seen. It is a magic city! You have the canals, you have to use the boat. But you can also walk in some places. And there is no cars - imagine a city with no cars! It is just magical! And then I would suggest visiting Tuscany - going to Florence, Pisa, San Marino etc.
When you choose your places, it is important to find the ways how you are going to move from one place to another, from one city to another. So you have to think also about it. Are you going to be using train, bus, car, boat or plane? Look at the different possibilities and find out, what is better, cheaper etc.
And then when all those things are in place, you are going to plan everything in detail. So you are going to be looking for the places to sleep; what to visit in particular etc. You are going to book your tickets, make reservations etc.
As you haven't travelled a lot in the past 5 years, it is definitely really difficult for you to do it all. So feel free to ask help here! I am more than happy to help you guys out with planning this trip!
what Wanderled said - Western Europe can be really expensive, especially if you're hopping over with US dollars. As a Berlin resident, I can say that while things are becoming more expensive here (cough rent cough), everything else is still pretty reasonable. Also a bit biased - why are you skipping Germany!? There's so much to see, here's an overview: -snip-
Friends studying in Madrid have also reported that the city is incredibly cheap at the moment. If you're going in the summertime though, brace yourself for really hot temperatures!
[ Edit: Edited on 26-Mar-2013, at 03:15 by teaenthusiast. Link removed. ]
Thanks for your helpful advice. At this early stage, I have removed your link as a cautionary measure. We get a little anxious with new members posting links straight away but please don't be disheartened, your advice is invaluable!
teaenthusiast, I think that Germany isn't the best choice for summer as they still want to see some sun and relax in warm weather. Plus they have a lot of places anyway to visit and I really don't think that they should jump around so much. Maybe it is better for them to stay at one place a little longer and as I understood it is their first trip to Europe, so they can really discover Europe and maybe another time they'll go to Germany and all the other countries. This is just my personal opinion. Germany is nice and although the people there are different from the people in France and in Italy, I like it.
For a first trip to UK/England, France and Italy--with a week in each spot--I would recommend the following places (in summer):
England/UK: London (also, don't forget you'll need to recover from the 5 to 8 hours of jet lag), Warwick Castle near Coventry, town of Bath and the Cotswolds area.
France: Paris, Nice, Monaco (yes, actually a separate country, but entirely surrounded by France)
Italy: Rome, Tuscany (specifically Florence and Siena), leaning tower of Pisa, Venice, and the lakes region north of Milan (Lake Como, Bellagio, even Lake Lugano across in Switzerland).
P.S. The lakes region is a good place to cool down after visiting the normally very hot locations of Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome.